Talking 'Bout My Generation

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

ENTERTAINMENT AS NEWS, NEWS AS ENTERTAINMENT

Man oh man, do we love our entertainment news. Lohan, fresh out or rehab, seen entering a club with her new beau, a fellow addict and previously engaged man. Spears booked for her hit and run at a local LA police station.

These are the things that make the top news stories these days. Why? Because people watch it. People are fascinated by it. These people don't care to hear about how many of their fellow countryman died yesterday in the Iraq war, or whether the 1915 massacre of the Armenians was ruled a Genocide, or even how women's health rates have declined across most US States. These things aren't funny or entertaining like celebrity news stories. On the contrary, they're problematic and disconcerting.

This isn't to say that people don't care about these issues. Such is not the case, but the complacent American public, in general, seems more content to leave these bigger issues up to the policiticians to report on and resolve, while they kick back and turn up Entertainment Tonight.

CNN, MSNBC, and FOX NEWS reports on Paris Hilton

Still, you might be surprised by how much these young purveyors of culture actually do keep up on what's going on beyond the gossip. Sure their primary news source isn't CSPAN or MSNBC (who continually headline these same celebrity stories that comprise the gossip mags), but rather Comedy Central. Yep, you heard me right. If people want entertainment news, well then give them news thats entertaining. Shows like "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" ultimately serve as major world and national news sources of my generation.

Through all the witty banter and political jeers, a kind of real authentic news sources does emerge. Lately, its not uncommon to hear discussions of General Petraus's report before Congress or the rise in value of the canadian dollar over its US counterpart. These are serious military and economic issues that took the forefront of the young american consciousness primarily through these "fake news" stations. Sure, we love to laugh at Fox News' depiction of lapel-pin-free Obama as "anti-american," but its more about laughing at the absurdity of politics in general while soaking in the basis for major political issues. The difficulty here, and the reason this form of "fake news" thrives, is that my generation values authenticity and politics are anything but. It may seem like an oxymoron for an authenticity-loving generation to turn to a "fake news" network, but it makes practical sense. The shows themselves and their commentators, the great Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, are able to mock themselves and their shows, they don't have the stiff effrontery of their real news counterparts; therein lies its authentic value. We can laugh at the absurdity, the apparently insanity of it all, while still getting our daily information dose.
posted by Megan Anhalt at 2:03 PM 0 comments

Thursday, October 11, 2007

THE MUSIC IN ME

Music is a huge part of this generation, that much is certain. However, most people think we only target the hottest hippest songs, whichever genre we may prefer. In fact, I would say we have a pretty strong appreciation for the classics of all kinds, whether it be classic rock songs, folk tunes, and other "music of our parents." Its all surprisingly big. If you don't believe me, play any Journey song at a party with 20-somethings; they'll go nuts for sure. Phil Collins, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Johnny Cash. Believe it or not, we like it all and more.
Nostalgia plays a huge role for us, I think. We grew up listening to the music of our parents before we were able to discover our own music and our own expression, and that exposure at such a young age certainly influences our taste and makes an overall impact on our lives. Its not always about what new song is blasting on the radio or bumping in the club. Check out any millennial's ipod. You'll certainly find a plethora of songs there that you never even expected. A good male friend of mine even has a "Barbie Girl" techno remix amid his collection of cold war kids, kanye west, and early 90's compilation cds. For us, its all about diversity and choice, a mixture of the old and new, the eclectic and the expected.

So what sparked this rant? Well, while hanging out with my usual gang, something just clicked. We started the evening with the traditional Texas Hold'Em Tournament (to which I spanked 5 guys in 20 minutes, a boast-worthy victory indeed), then graduated to a rousing game of beer pong on the millennial hand-crafted table in the middle of the living room. But somewhere between games of Beer Pong, as alternating tunes from Guitar Hero provided our soundtrack, and a rousing porch-side political debate, something shifted. Matt, a law student friend of mine, who is interestingly enough a gifted self-taught pianist, began banging out some familiar tunes on the piano. Slowly but surely we all gravitated to the back wall, where the white and black keys were in full fury with "Piano Man." And before we even knew what had happened, we all started to sing.
These aren't nerdy guys. These aren't weird guys. They're just your everyday beer-drinking, sports-watching dudes. And they had a sing-along. Without skipping a beat or with the slightest hesitation, we sang. Not one song, but many songs...flipping furiously through the pages of the classic rock "fake" book, exclaiming, "can you do this one?" and "oh man, this song is great! play that one!"

My Millenial Friends engaging in another impromptu sing-a-long at our Halloween party.

These are the things research will never show you. These are things that the mountains of statistics can never indicate or even imply. Just when you think you've got this audience all figured out, we'll surprise you in the most interesting of ways. That is what makes this generation so great.

posted by Megan Anhalt at 10:24 AM 0 comments

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

THE CULT OF FANTASY FOOTBALL

I've never felt the need for internet on my cell phone so much as when I drafted my first Fantasy Football Team. Now usually I try my best to actually sit my bum down in front of the tv (or multiple tv's at a sportsbar if its a particularly eventful Sunday), but every now and then I find myself having to be elsewhere when a game is on and man, do I get antsy. STATS, STATS, NEED STATS!! Did Romo throw another interception? Is Maroney playing? How's Washington's D holding up? Did my boy just score a touchdown? You gotta let me know!!

Fantasy football really revolutionizes the way you view the games, and the internet has certainly revolutionized how fantasy games are played. Yahoo! Fantasy Sports has this amazing thing called StatTracker where you can follow your players live online. This is key, as the NFL has some shady deal with DirectTV, so unless you've got their NFL Sunday Ticket at $300 a pop, you're not getting to watch most games at all.

One little trick I've found (sans internet on my phone) is GOOGLE SMS. Did you know you can text the word "GOOGLE" practically anything, and it'll send you a text back (standard messaging rates apply) almost instantly? Philadelphia Eagles Score. Boom, there it is in a flash. Info at the push of a button, anytime, anywhere, that's the Millennial way.

While Fantasy Sports are by no means an activity played by all, it certainly has a huge following, particularly in the 20-something crowd. Football, Baseball, Basketball, even Hockey and Golf. Its all about control, customization, knowledge-based skill, and ole fashioned good luck. You know, getting involved. Its not just about watching sports anymore, its about playing along. It keeps us on the cutting edge. Plus, who doesn't like a friendly competition among friends?
posted by Megan Anhalt at 6:09 PM 1 comments

WES ANDERSON, A NEW KIND OF COMEDY

Man oh man, I love me some Wes Anderson. His quirky dark comedies really integrate a sense of real human emotional torment with bizarre storybook type events and characters. Its a great way to direct and really shows, again, this generational trait of mixing authenticity with creativity. His movies are another of those that characterize a certain sensibility that part of this generation shares. Not everyone loves Wes Anderson movies...my 18-yr-old sister for one, HATES them...but those that enjoy them, really love them and assign a certain cultural cache to them that goes well beyond simple entertainment. I'm super excited for his new movie that came out last weekend "The Darjeeling Limited," and will surely provide updates once I see it next week.

Moreover, as Halloween approaches (a huge holiday for my friends especially), I felt like Wes was worth a mention. His specific style has been an inspiration for many a costume. My buds might even being reprising their role as "Team Zizzou" this season...or maybe go the "Royal Tenenbaums" route...only time will tell.
posted by Megan Anhalt at 5:11 PM 0 comments

QUIRK, KITSCH, AND YOU

There has been a bit of a backlash against American popular culture lately that I find to be highly entertaining. Last month famed designer Marc Jacobs sent fashions down the runway that produced an astonished and almost disturbed response from the fashion community. His fashions, always forward-thinking if not a bit odd, were particularly unique this season as they were inspired by the most popular characteristic of American culture at this time: Quirk. So quirky were his designs that some clothing appeared backwards, patterns mismatched, shoes slightly too small for its models, and the whole show done in reverse. This may have shocked the fashion community and even brought forth some unfavorable snickers from the audience, but I get what Jacobs is selling and I appreciate his momentum. He's able to embrace the kitschiness of our present culture while still working to perpetuate something new and interesting into the fashion world. This, you have to respect.

So what is Quirk and why has it rubbed so many people the wrong way? The Atlantic Monthly produced a fascinating article this month (found here) on the merits (or lack there of) of this American phenomenon. The contributing editor for this publication, Michael Hirschorn defined "quirk" as: “an embrace of the odd against the blandly mainstream. It features mannered ingenuousness, an embrace of small moments, narrative randomness, situationally amusing but not hilarious character juxtapositions...and unexplainable but nonetheless charming character traits. Quirk takes not mattering very seriously. Quirk is odd, but not too odd. That would take us all the way to weird, and there someone might get hurt." I have to say I love this definition b/c it captures that kind of American sensibility and tendency towards the strange yet sincere. There is certainly a sweetness to quirk that makes it resonate most with American audiences. Quirk is "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Flight of the Conchords." Its the newest YouTube sensation "Leave Britney Alone" and "Arrested Development" and "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zizzou." Its comedy, its oddity, its fun, its heart-warming while still maintaining a little roughness around the edges. Its not American reality, but rather a play on American sensibilities and culture.

The problem I think people are having lately with "Quirk" is not that they themselves lack an understanding of its charm. Rather, it is the fact that this previously counter-culture-esque movement has now found its way into the mainstream. Nearly everyone has "Napoleon Dynamite" listed as one of the favorite movies on facebook these days, proudly dawning their "Vote for Pedro" tees. Nearly every college-aged minion can drop "Anchorman" quotes like its their job. This transition should come as no surprise as nearly every counter-culture movement finds it way into the mainstream eventually. Even the goths and punks of the world find most of the wardrobe that defines them at the billion-dollar franchise that is "Hot Topic." "Urban Outfitters" is another perfect example of this. Its always this notion of "selling out" that gets people all riled up over any elements of our culture, but that's just the way it goes I guess.

I have to say I embrace the heart-warming qualities of Quirk and am not so quick to write it off as the latest pop cult phase of our generation. Sure, it'll continue to gain momentum until it so saturates our culture that even I will be ready for something new. But for now, let's just enjoy it, shall we? Its better than the infamous mindless reality tv phase of only a few years before, don't you think?
posted by Megan Anhalt at 5:09 PM 0 comments

MYSPACE TV GOES ONLINE

While internet series have been taking off in a big way for awhile (with "Lonelygirl15" and "Sam Has 7 Friends"), MySpace's new series "Quarterlife" is the social networking site's first series to launch. While the previous internet series have been kinda fly by night endeavors, "Quarterlife" will mark the first series to be backed by a well-established set of Hollywood Producer/Creators: Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz ("My So-Called Life," The Last Samurai, and Blood Diamond). The series, which began as a pilot for ABC called "1/4 Life," was presumed dead after the network passed on it almost 3 years ago. MySpace has fully revived the series, hoping to bring it to life on Nov. 11th. It will consist of short 8-minute episodes to be aired weekly during a 24-hour window for a total of 36 episodes overall. The show will be available on the series' signature site www.Quarterlife.com as well. Due to the popularity of MYSPACE and its current status as a well-oiled marketing machine, the series is expected to do well. I guess we'll have to wait and see how it pans out come November. I have to admit, it looks pretty good. It feels a lot like My So-Called Life, which I just adored.
Quarterlife Trailer

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Oh, and did I mention that my little favey "frat boy" from ABC Family's series GREEK Scott Michael Foster is starring in the series alongside the title character played by Bitsie Tulloch.

**UPDATE 11/19/2007** NBC has just completed negotiations to air the "QUARTERLIFE" internet series on NETWORK TV via NBC starting sometime in early 2008 (once the series has aired on the internet in its entirety). It will be put together in the form of 6 one-hour episodes, a form its producers had originally intended for it to be aired in the first place.
posted by Megan Anhalt at 5:05 PM 0 comments

KANYE'S "STRONGER" INFLUENCE

Man, this song is EVERYWHERE. Now, I've never been the biggest fan of Kanye West as a person b/c he always comes off as kind of a dick, but hey, he's got some great music and I think it really speaks to this generation. On the other hand, I LOVE Daft Punk and thought their song "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" was one of their best. It really captures the go-go-go of this generation. To sample such a great song and really add to it just shows so much. The lyrics, the music itself. Its all about giving it all you got and not knowing what's going to happen, but you gotta put yourself out there. Its also about reinvention, appropriation, and adaptation... making things work for you. I'm just loving this song right now and I know a lot of others are too.

And for a fun throw-back to the original. Check out this video made below by a YouTube user and clear Daft Punk fanatic. Its amazing:
posted by Megan Anhalt at 4:37 PM 0 comments

M-M-M MY MILLENNIALS!

What is a Millennial?

BORN: 1978-1995 (Age 12-29)
75 Million Strong

Characterized as: Self-Confident, Hopeful, In-the-Know, Techno-Saavy, Self-Reliant, Driven, Diverse, Impatient, Flexible, Inclusive, and Questioning

Value: Authenticity, Respect, Honesty, Efficiency, and Diversity

Motto: "More, better, faster!"

Everything you ever see about this "elusive and ever-evolving" generation is written about by old nerdy white guys with computers. Statistics, statistics, statistics. Sure, they can crunch numbers and churn out the "what's hot and what's not" of it all...but its a day late and a dollar short so to speak. By the time it hits their printers, its usually common knowledge and the corporations so desperately "cool-hunting" have usually already hopped on the bandwagon anyway.

I'm here to break it down for ya. Straight from the horse's mouth. Now, am I going to be able to speak for ALL people in my generation? Not even close. I speak for myself and for those I know best, but I can tell you that that experience is probably leaps and bounds ahead of the people researching it in the first place. Ultimately, their research is great...but it comes too late and for a hefty price. For up the the minute hits and trends with the younger market, I hope I can bring it straight to you with the click of a mouse button. Afterall, that's how us millennials like it done.
posted by Megan Anhalt at 3:26 PM 0 comments